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THE MERGER YADA YADA
By Joe Brancatelli
February 14, 2013 -- To paraphrase Seinfeld, I'm just gonna yada yada this American-US Airways thing. It's that boring.

And you know why this airline merger stuff is one gigantic bore? Because it's all so damned predictable. So predictable that the moment United and Continental linked up almost three years ago, we started talking about an American-US Airways deal.

Think I'm kidding? Click here for my column of May 6, 2010, written the week the United-Continental deal was announced. Scroll down to the bottom. The last item was all about the inevitability of an AA-US deal.

That was three freakin' years ago. That's how sorry-assed this stuff is. That's how bereft of ideas and innovation the airline industry is. We can see it all coming from years away.

Thousands of miles away, in the world's most hidebound place, Vatican City, a wrinkly old German guy did do something innovative this week. He quit his job and, as the New York Post so pithily put it, gave God his two weeks notice.

That is interesting. That is noteworthy. Regardless of what you think of the Catholic Church and the tired old men who run it, that is thinking you applaud. One guy saw the world changing, realized that he was no longer up to the task of being a globe-trotting leader, broke 650 years of tradition and walked away.

But a merger of US Airways and American Airlines? A merger that we saw coming three years ago? A merger with no benefit for anyone but Doug Parker, who's finally climbed the airline mountaintop?

Why is this at all interesting? Why is this at all newsworthy? Why isn't this just another rerun of mergers we saw two years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago?

Think I'm kidding? Read the official handout announcing the merger here. Then read the FAQs that the two carriers put up on their merger Web site here.

Yada, yada. We're heard it all before in every airline merger that has gone before.

The combined carriers will grow and continue all routes and maintain their service standards. (A lie.) Employees are going to be just fine. (A lie.) Your frequent flyer miles are safe. (True, so long as you don't consider the value of your miles in a combined carrier.) There'll be billions of dollars of merger synergies. (The airline equivalent of pols saying they will cut the federal budget by "eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.")

Yada, yada. Yesterday's news. Last decade's and last century's news.

I could pull out the fact sheets from the 2001 merger of American and TWA and they'd say the same things. I could pull the releases from the merger of US Air, Piedmont and PSA in the 1980s and they'd say the same things. I could dust off the boilerplate from the America West-US Airways merger from 2005 and it'd say the same things. How'd those work out for us?

Yada, yada. It's meaningless. You know what's going to happen.

The airlines will take six months or so to get approvals, they'll shed some slots in Washington or New York to keep the regulators happy, then it'll all go to passenger hell. They'll screw up the computer transition. They'll mess with whatever it is you like best about the frequent flyer programs. Service will decline. Prices will rise. Standards will slip further. Routes and hubs will disappear.

And, as I explained in yesterday's Seat 2B column, this merger has labor chaos written all over it. American's unions sold their own carrier down the river to cut a deal with Doug Parker, who never negotiated a successful combined pilot's or flight attendant's contract in the seven years that he's run the combined America West-US Airways. How do you think the unions are going to react when they realize Parker sold them a pocketful of nothing just to get this merger done?

They're gonna take it out on us, of course. Strikes and slowdowns and work-to-rules job actions.

Like I said, yada, yada.

Meanwhile, Parker gets to put on his big-boy pants and claim to run the world's largest airline. How did that work out for Jeff Smisek over at United, which, until today, was the world's largest carrier? His tenure has been a nightmare, financially and operationally.

So Parker wins. The rest of us--labor, flyers, airports, the industry at large--lose.

The world's largest airline is now in the hands of a guy who tried to charge for coffee and soft drinks before his own flight attendants revolted. The world's largest airline is now in the hands of a guy who nearly destroyed his airline's international operations. The world's largest airline is in the hands of a guy who let thousands of his most frequent flyers walk away. The world's largest airline is in the hands of a guy who created the template for screwing up a computer conversion.

Do yourself a favor, though. Don't worry about any of this crap. Go have a nice, long President's Day weekend. This American-US Airways stuff will be with us for months to come as they work through the approvals process and then years to come as they prepare the consolidation process.

In other words, yada, yada.

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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.

This column is Copyright 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.